Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was not Chuck Hagel’s toughest senatorial critic during his road to confirmation as secretary of defense. That prize goes to Sen. Ted “Who was that North Korean I saw you with last night?” Cruz (R-Tex.).
But Graham was at the vanguard of the critics who made Hagel’s past departures from pro-Israel orthodoxy an issue.
So it’s not insignificant that he and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), another nay vote who cited Israel and Iran as an issue, are giving him a tentative thumbs up three months into the job.
From Politico today:
“I’m very pleased,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who during his confirmation hearing grilled Hagel on controversial remarks he made about Israel. Graham voted against Hagel but now says he’s happy with the way Hagel has tackled a flurry of national security challenges in his first three months on the job.
“He’s been a good advocate that sequestration is going to be a real death blow to our military readiness. He’s reached out to Congress. He’s been forthcoming in his remarks, trying to take the chain of command out of military justice decisions and various sexual harassment [cases]. I don’t agree with that, but generally speaking, I think he’s done a good job,” Graham told POLITICO.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who also voted against Hagel, said she still believes he was the wrong choice but that he’s on the right track.
“Obviously, it’s the beginning of his tenure, but so far, I think he’s trying to bring people together, even people who didn’t support him. So I appreciate his efforts, and I think he’s off to a good start,” she told POLITICO.